French unions are staging a nationwide strike in protest at government plans to reform pensions. Public transport, schools and most of the state sector are taking part in the one-day walkout.
More than a million people are expected to join street protests. But some Parisians feel it is time the government took preventative action.
“They are taking us hostage everyday. This is such a pity. They are well paid. They are cosy. This is not acceptable. We should prevent them from going on strike,” lamented one commuter.
The day of action is a key test of strength between the powerful unions and President Nicolas Sarkozy, who needs to slash a ballooning budget deficit and public debt to help the country maintain its precious AAA sovereign debt rating.
The government wants to raise the retirement age to 62, without which it warns the system will run up annual deficits of 100 billion euros by 2050.